With the craft beer movement settling in, you may have noticed people walking around town with big, brown, glass jugs filled with beer. If not, you may have heard people use the word “growlers” when talking about beer. Right now, these “growlers” are all the rage in the craft beer community — by the drinkers, that is.
History of the Growler
What is a growler? Think of a hobo on the side of the railway tracks, eating beans and drinking moonshine. What is he drinking that moonshine out of? Ah, yes, a big jug. But that’s not who founded, nor coined the term “growler”. For this we have to go back to the early 1900s, when beer was bought directly from the local brewery. Beer drinkers would bring their own buckets, fill it with beer, and seal the bucket with a lid. Then, come drinking time, when the lid was removed, the sound of the carbon dioxide escaping created a “growl”, and thus these buckets became known as “Growlers”. That story is a known tale around the craft beer community, and isn’t officially stated as fact, rather a myth.
What is a fact, though, is that in the late 80s, the new, modern growler was created. An American brewer wanted to bring back the growler system of having customers come to the brewery to get their beer. He bought several glass jugs, printed the logo of the brewery on them, and then sold these reusable bottles to customers. Like in the old days, these customers now have a container to fill up their beer directly from the brewery — fresh beer sells!
Today almost every brewery has, or will eventually adopt, the growler system. As breweries gain more freedom from government restrictions, they are able to be more creative in how they distribute their beer.
The reusable jug costs roughly five dollars for the customer, and can be filled for usually ten dollars. The jug holds 1.89 litres (64 fl.oz) of beer, which is slightly under six bottles of beer. So, not only is the beer drinker getting very fresh beer, but it costs less than what he or she would pay at the liquor store. Seems too good to be true? Well there are a couple issues.
Growlers Ruin Your Beer?!
While a lot of people love growlers, some people aren’t too convinced they’re the way to go. Since brewing great beer requires a good amount of sanitation (the smallest bit of bacteria can throw off an entire batch of beer), some believe leaving sanitation up to the customer can be risky. If someone brings back an improperly washed growler, the beer that goes inside could end up ruined. Also, growlers are to be consumed within 24 hours after opening, and can usually sit for a few days before opening. This is because of the amount of oxygen that goes into your beer when filling the growler: oxygen kills beer. So a good idea is to drink the jug the day you fill it.
So What Do You Do Now?
Well now you know to do three things: 1) Keep your growlers extremely clean, 2) Consume within 24 hours after opening, and 3) Stay current and get on the growler train! There are so many breweries in British Columbia currently filling growlers. Victoria has been doing it for years, while Vancouver is just getting started. As more and more new breweries open in Vancouver, expect them to also serve growlers. The following is a list of Vancouver breweries that currently have the growler system.
Parallel 49 Brewing Co. 1946 Triumph St, Vancouver, BC V5L 1K5 (parallel49brewing.com)
Steamworks Brewpub 375 Water St, Vancouver, BC V6B 1B8 (steamworks.com)
Central City Brewing 13450 102 Ave #190, Surrey, BC V3T 5X3 (centralcitybrewing.com)
Bridge Brewing Co. 115-2433 Dollarton Hwy, North Vancouver, BC, V7H 0A1 (bridgebrewing.com)
Powell Street Brewery 1830 Powell St, Vancouver, BC V5L 3Y9 (powellbeer.com)
Yaletown Brewing Co. 1111 Mainland St, Vancouver, BC V6B 2T9 (drinkfreshbeer.com)
So now check out a local brewery, buy a refillable growler, and get to work!